Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: police


Demonizing the cops: A stale, vicious protest tactic

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Before they go to work, police officers wake up, take showers, put on uniforms and say goodbye to spouses and children who hope they will come home alive at the end of their shifts.

They handle brawls, robberies, aggressive drunks, fugitives, sociopaths and volatile domestic calls that sometimes turn lethal. They routinely cross paths with lowlifes carrying guns.

Their job description consists of putting their bodies between dangerous criminals and the innocent public. They are the good guys, not the bad guys.

So it gets old watching Occupy Wall Street factions resort to the old, wearisome and fundamentally vicious tactic of promoting their causes by maneuvering cops into staged confrontations designed to make them look like bullies.

As some Occupy camps in U.S. cities have degenerated into spectacles of park destruction, crime, drug overdoses and public defecation, previously sympathetic mayors have been forced to reclaim the hijacked public spaces.
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Cops reacted with honor to killings of their peers

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

A year after the slaughter of four Lakewood officers in a Parkland coffee shop, the law has seen some big improvements.

The Legislature and voters amended the Washington Constitution to let judges deny bail to defendants facing possible life sentences – as Maurice Clemmons faced even before he killed Mark Renninger, Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards.

And Washington officials have negotiated far tougher procedures in the Interstate Compact on Adult Offender Supervision, whose loopholes allowed Arkansas to export Clemmons to Washington without much warning – then cancel its own warrant for his extradition.

But one thing doesn’t appear to have changed: the professional restraint of Puget Sound police officers.

Officers in the region’s various jurisdictions have shot suspects – including Clemmons himself – in the aftermath of the cop-killings a year ago. Some have suspected them of being quicker to defend themselves with deadly force after seeing four of their fellow cops gunned down in the Parkland café and two more killed in separate incidents.

But that’s selective perception. Officers were using force – with justification and occasionally without – before Clemmons. They haven’t become trigger-happy since then.
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Tacoma gets fireworks enforcement right this year

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The City of Tacoma seems to have hit the sweet spot for controlling fireworks: a total ban, decriminalization, plenty of police on the streets.

That’s not to say the city was quiet on the Fourth of July; it clearly wasn’t, as evidenced by the 688 complaints that came in before, during and after the holiday. Compare that, though, with the 918 complaints of 2007, when the City Council started treating the Fourth’s petty pyromania as a civil infraction, not a hard-to-prosecute criminal misdemeanor.

On-the-spot citations and $257 civil fines seem to impress scofflaws more than the very unlikely prospect of conviction for setting off ladyfingers. Tacoma officers handed out 65 of those stiff tickets this year compared to 10 in 2007.

That’s not quite one citation for every 10 calls. When half the city seems to be breaking the law, and evidence literally goes up in flames, that seems a pretty good average.

It helped that the Tacoma Police Department deployed as many as 12 officers at a time against the violators. Until last year, only four were running around the city, doing their best to respond to an impossible task.
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A court’s baffling suppression of police reports

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.


That’s how we reacted a few weeks ago to a judge’s order to block the release of law enforcement reports about the shooting of four Lakewood police officers last November. Such documents are routinely released – for very good reason – once officers have caught the suspects and wrapped up the investigation.

Susan Serko of the Pierce County Superior Court got the law wrong May 20 when she sided with defense lawyers representing the seven people accused of assisting cop-killer Maurice Clemmons. The attorneys persuaded her to stop the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department from releasing more than 2,000 pages relating to the cases, arguing that publicizing the information might deny their clients a fair trial.

This week, Serko delivered a double-huh decision. Admitting that she’d misunderstood key points of law in her original ruling, she still reaffirmed the ruling. The Seattle Times, which – joined by The News Tribune – was trying to pry the reports loose, plans to appeal. Serko’s decision cries out for reversal.

The Washington Supreme Court has already upheld pretrial disclosure of investigative documents – in a 1999 decision that overrode an earlier ruling Serko inexplicably relied on. But let’s leave precedents aside and consider what’s at stake for justice in general.
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A criminal gang merits criminal conspiracy charges

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

There’s never been a spectacle quite like it in a state court.

Thirty-two accused criminal conspirators – alleged members of the Hilltop Crips – crowded into one courtroom, with 30 defense attorneys, four prosecutors and more than 20 law-enforcement officers. Outside, sheriff’s deputies patrolling the lobbies and exterior of the County-City Building.

That’s what a major conspiracy case against a street gang looks like. Other states have successfully pursued such cases, as have federal prosecutors, but this is a first for Washington’s criminal justice system.

The strategy is promising, and the target looks well-chosen.

The Hilltop Crips – whose origins go back to the 1980s – have been described as Tacoma’s oldest criminal gang. A police offensive devastated them in the 1990s, but they’ve been mounting an aggressive comeback in recent years.

It must be emphasized that the “Hilltop” in the gang’s name is an anachronism. The Hilltop, once plagued with gang violence, is now one of the safest parts of Tacoma. For the most part, these thugs live elsewhere and commit their crimes elsewhere.
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How the police saw that memorial procession

We took a pointed shot Thursday at last week’s miles-long memorial police procession on behalf of murdered Seattle Officer Timothy Brenton. I expected to get torn to pieces after it ran, but was surprised: Reactions were evenly split between those who think the processions have gone over the top and those who thought we were spitting on Brenton’s grave.

Civilians tended to be of the former persuasion; the police of the latter (they didn’t put it quite so bluntly). The people with the badges have special standing in this debate. Here’s one particularly thoughtful comment from my exchange

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More can be less with police memorial processions

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

This may be the least popular question we raise all year, but here goes:
Might a fallen police officer be properly honored without a miles-long memorial procession of so many squad cars it ties up major city arterials for hours?

Seattle Officer Timothy Brenton, who was shot to death a week ago Saturday by a mad dog killer, deserved the high honors he received Friday. He deserved the personal tributes, the honor guard, the 21-gun salute, the memorial service at KeyArena. When law enforcement officers take bullets for the rest of us, they and their profession ought to be recognized.

It is possible to take good things too far. We respectfully suggest that what has become a tradition of incredibly lengthy street processions for both law-enforcement officers and firefighters has crossed the line.

In Brenton’s case, the City of Seattle hosted thousands of police officers and firefighters from across Washington, and from Canada, Idaho, Oregon and California. Many drove their official vehicles on a processional route that ran from Husky Stadium to KeyArena by way of Montlake Boulevard, Denny Way and other major thoroughfares. Apparently this had to be done on a weekday. People who normally use those busy streets were warned to avoid them from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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